Spanish Fork is one step closer to having a park specifically designed to meet the needs of children of all abilities.

Last Wednesday, the city released images and video of the design of the 10-plus acre park that will feature accessible amenities including a wheelchair swing, a sensory play area and a ground-level merry-go-round.

Building a park that is inclusive toward Spanish Fork residents with physical and mental disabilities has “been on our (Spanish Fork’s) wish list of things that we wanted to do in the future,” Spanish Fork Parks and Recreation Director Dale Robinson said in a Facebook video discussing the new park.

“It’s been something we’ve wanted and felt that we’ve needed in our community for some time,” said Robinson, adding that a large donation made by a local family last fall “moved (the all-abilities park) to the top of the priority list.”

Other than through donations, the approximately $5 million park will be paid for through impact fees and, potentially, through RAP grant funding, according to Robinson. Property taxes would not be raised to fund the park, he added.

While similar park projects typically take one or two years to complete, Robinson said construction of the all-abilities park has been put on “fast track” and will likely be completed in July.

Robinson said the city reached out to 35 families who have a child or sibling with special needs for input into what the park should look like and what amenities it should feature. These families gave “tremendous feedback” and “opened our eyes to things that we would not otherwise know,” he said.

“We’re just happy that we have the ability to create some amenities that will help relieve some of their (the family’s) pressure when they look for opportunities to take their families to enjoy parks,” Robinson said.

Among the things the park will feature is a sensory garden filled with trees, shrubs and flowers and a hard-surfaced, wheelchair-accessible trail winding through it.

Robinson described the sensory garden as “a place where you can go if you need to get away from the confusion and the noise” and said it will include interactive play panels.

Children who have cochlear implants shouldn’t use plastic slides since the static electricity from the slides can interfere with and damage the implants, according to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The all-abilities park will have metal slides to accommodate kids with such implants, Robinson said.

The park will also have three zip lines running through it, each equipped with a seat belt and harness to provide increased safety and stability.

For Spanish Fork residents who use wheelchairs, the park will have gradually inclining pathways that lead to elevated areas overseeing the entire park, said Robinson.

Various swing types for children with physical disabilities will be installed throughout the park, including ones with seat belts and face-to-face swings where children can swing alongside a parent, friend or family member.

The park will also feature climbing rocks, a tree house, a splash pad, a music area, a waterfall and a grotto, as well as grassy hills and open playing space.

At the request of parents, the park will be completely fenced off and only have one entrance and exit, Robinson said.

While the park was inspired by others in the state, including the Thunder Junction All Abilities Park in St. George, Robinson said he believes the park will be a unique asset that will make the city more accessible and enjoyable for all.

“This is definitely going to be one of a kind in the state of Utah, if not the country,” he said. “So it’s exciting that we’re able to have it here in Spanish Fork.”

Spanish Fork residents reacted to the park design with excitement on social media.

“Absolutely stunning!” one person wrote on Facebook. “Universal design at its best.”

“Looks beautiful! A great addition to our city,” wrote another.

The park design was created by In-Site Design Group, which is based in American Fork. More information about the park can be found at spanishfork.org/aap.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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